By Dr. Stan Cooke
Political leaders in Montgomery are telling Alabamians that “we have a budget crisis,” no – wait, “we have a revenue crisis,” no – wait, the story changes again, we have a taxation crisis. The sad fact that is facing Alabama is this – We Have A Leadership Crisis! Allow me to review.
Gov. Robert Bentley looked Alabama in the eye in 2014 and was economical with the truth as he spent millions of dollars on campaign ads that proclaimed “No New Taxes” and then the day after the election he declares we have a budget crisis and we must raise taxes. Since the Governor did not tell Alabama the truth one has to wonder does he have “political-Alzheimer’s” or is he just another typical politician? Maybe what the Governor needs is a public relations firm with a female touch to soften his image during the hard political battles that are ahead.
The Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard has brought embarrassment to the State and Republican Party because of his indictments by a special grand jury in Lee County on 23 counts relating to misusing his office for personal gain and soliciting gifts from lobbyists. Senate Pro Tem, Del Marsh has a busy schedule that includes testifying before a grand jury, trimming the State’s budget so that he can give his chief of staff a $40,000 pay raise, and fighting with Mike Hubbard over the best gambling bill … as they both fight with Gov. Bentley over control of the State. The State Legislature is in a “state” of paralysis when it comes to passing a real budget because they respectfully fear the power of the Pro Tem, the retribution of the Speaker of the House and threats of the Governor to withhold funding from their districts.
There have been times in our past where our State reached a political crossroads – when the circumstances were so dire that the people demanded change. We experienced this as a Nation during the 2010 presidential election. The Nation was sold on the ideal of hope and change, and while the message appealed too many, most voters failed to separate reality from rhetoric. They failed to test the message by filtering it through the lens of leadership. Today, as we stand at the crossroads of Leadership and Failed-Leadership – and the voters are again demanding change.
We Alabamians find ourselves at this crossroads today still in need of hope and change because we are in a leadership crisis. Some of the political actors may have changed offices, but the story remains the same. This is not a democrat versus republican problem or a liberal versus conservative issue. This crisis extends beyond political parties and governmental philosophies. The problem is simply this; we, the voters, have forgotten what real leadership looks like.
Alabama is suffering greatly at the hands of politicians who have placed their desire to be right above the desire to achieve the right outcome. These politicians confuse their quest for power and their thirst for greed with leadership. Benjamin Franklin said that “authentic leaders aren’t motivated by fame and fortune – rather, what drives them is a personal standard of excellence. Authentic leaders put themselves at the service of the mission, subsuming their desire for recognition in order to serve as best they can.”
Alabama, why does all this matter? Because real leadership matters. Those elected leaders who abuse leadership place us all at risk. Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, and can bring about the demise of our State. The demand for true leaders in Alabama has never been greater. There is a chasm-size void to be filled. When we misunderstand the importance of leadership and label non-leaders as leaders, we create the crisis that we have today.
It is time to say enough is enough – it’s time for a real leadership movement in Alabama. Movements are nothing new. Some movements have been evolutionary, while others were revolutionary. Some have been misguided and short-lived, while others have taken deep root and made the world a better place. We have reached a time in our State’s existence where we must draw a line in the political sand and declare that we will no longer tolerate failed governmental exploits to serve as examples of leadership.
Is this an overreaction? I don’t think so. Leadership in Alabama has devolved rather than evolved. There are elected leaders in Alabama that are serving a personal agenda and they greatly outnumber those leaders that are serving something greater than themselves. It’s time for a change.
It’s time for a leadership movement that values debate, dialog, and discourse instead of climbing the political ladder and the politics of personal gain. A movement is a cause greater than one’s self – it’s a populist ground-swell rather than an elitist exercise of the party establishment. A movement is intentional, impassioned and biased toward positive action. A movement requires a vision that is inclusive, collaborative, and is focused on service. Most of all, a movement requires people committed to change – real change!
It’s time for less talk and more action. Leadership is not about the power and the accolades bestowed upon the leader, it’s about the betterment of those whom the leader serves. At the core, leadership is about people. Leadership in government should be about improving the status quo and inspiring lasting, positive change.
As long as political and philosophical arguments are more important than progress, as long as being right is more important than new ideas, as long as politician’s egos are elevated above compassion, as long as rhetoric holds more value than performance, and as long as we tolerate all of these things as acceptable behavior, we will all suffer at the hands of poor leadership.
Today, Alabama is living with the results of poor leadership and bad management. Management is doing things right – while leadership is doing the right things. Alabama has neither. It is time that Alabama had courageous leadership that will demand a unified budgeted that is un-earmarked and balanced. It is time that Alabama had visionary leadership that will focus on building a great future for our citizens and not be distracted by tearing down monuments dedicated to the past. It is time for Alabamians to start a movement that will deliver new leaders to every area of State Government. It is time for a leadership change! Let the movement begin!!
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan